A small association (15 staff) serves an international membership of businesses working on electric motors. One of the services this association provides is technical engineering support. If a member has a specific question about how to repair a certain type of motor, they can call on one of the association’s five full-time engineers for an answer.
The challenge for the association was tracking the frequency and type of calls being received by the engineers. Because the current database was too cumbersome to use (entering data on technical inquiries required navigating through multiple menus, slowing down the actual call), some of the engineers were tracking their calls on spreadsheets, while others tracked the calls in desktop databases. Each engineer would then provide reports in spreadsheet format monthly to an administrative staffer who would enter the calls on the member’s record in the database. Once the data was entered, the executive director could then run reports showing frequency of calls and type of calls received, along with how many calls were being handled by each engineer.
The entire process was cumbersome and slow. Data about calls wasn’t available to the executive director until sometimes two months after the actual call had been received because data was being touched multiple times (first by the engineers and then by the admin staff).
The solution was a change in process and in technology.
First, the association implemented a new AMS that allowed the association to create data entry screens that were specifically designed for the needs of the engineers. The association created the exact flow of the screen and changed labels and pick-lists as required and appropriate. These data screens were directly related to the member’s record. (Note: For this association, a new AMS was selected for many reasons, including this one.)
An additional benefit of the new technology was that it was much easier for the engineers to verify membership of the caller. And once the record was queried and on-screen, the engineer could quickly review any prior conversations recorded between the caller and the association.
The association also changed its process so that the engineers would enter the data directly into the database as the calls were received. Because technology made data entry easier and faster for the engineers, they no longer had to use spreadsheets or desktop databases for data entry.
As a result of these changes, the engineers now enter calls directly into the database, obviating the need for an additional person to touch the data. This not only improves data integrity (fewer hands touching the data reduces opportunity for human error), but it frees up the admin staff to focus on other higher value work.
In addition, because data is entered in real-time, frontline customer service reps can distribute inquiries more equitably based on engineer workload.
Finally, because the data is entered as the calls are received, the executive director and staff have access to dashboards (graphs and charts) in real-time, rather than waiting until the end of the month (or longer) to see the call activity. As a result, the association can make changes as the data dictates, rather than waiting for months to see changes in call trends.
When considering solutions for existing issues or new ideas, always keep in mind the three key factors for any technology project: people, process, and technology. In this case, a change in both process and technology resulted in very dramatic results for the association.
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